Technique/Exercises Book suggestions please...

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Phil3822, Dec 10, 2014.

  1. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Hi all, following on from my thread about improving playing. One kind poster suggested concentrating on exercises and techniques. With this in mind can people please suggest some good books. I am still a reasonably inexperienced player so nothing to complex but with room to expand. All and any help would be great. As advised, I would supplement this with regular band practice and occasional lessons. Many thanks all.
  2. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I think that this is the thread that the OP refers to: As I (briefly) read it he hasn’t played for that long.

    ‘Progressive studies for the trumpet’ ( was recommended to me on TMP and I’ve found it helpful if tough (so I suppose that means I’m practicing with the right level of material for me). I think that there is another book by the same author for the earlier grades and they might overlap in content/difficulty. You might also find something in this thread:

    I haven’t bought a copy (yet) but Big Shinny Brass do a sort of Tutor that has a broad skill range marked as one to five Star. See: It’s all tunes but one’s that develop skills and has some good right-ups by respected folk. I think it would suit my learning style and complement other books used in the same practice sessions but you might well be different.

    If you do take the occasional lesson then your teacher might have some suggestions and work for you to cover in a ‘set text’.

    Please let us know what you end up with and why. That way we might get to benefit from the thread too (it’s always good to be ‘shown’ helpful practice material).
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014
  3. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

  4. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    Hi Phil,
    This is probably blatantly obvious, but, assuming that you are playing a valved instrument, I would be most surprised if any future teacher did not recommend one, or both, of the following:

    • [*=1]J.B. Arban's Cornet Method
      [*=1]H.L Clarke's Technical Studies for the Cornet

    Arban's book is pretty much the bible for brass exercises and tuition on this side of the Atlantic, whilst Clarke's book is held in equally high regard in the USA (and not just for trumpet or cornet, either). I have read that even Wynton Marsalis uses both books practically every day of his life. There are many other exercise and drill books of very good quality, and each have their adherents. In my experience, though, a very large number of players have only moved onto those other books once they have exhausted or become stale with the Arban and Clarke books. Almost everyone I know periodically returns to the Arban and Clarke books after a time away from them. They are both cheap, and both readily available online...most music shops stock them anyway.

    If you are a trombonist, then there are, I believe, specialist books that have been built from the ideas of Arban and (I believe) Clarke.

    I would caution about becoming a book-junky, though. It is easy to constantly go chasing the rainbow and thinking that the next book is the one that will solve your issues. It's like amateur golfers who think that a shiny new 9-iron is all that they need to become a pro...and then that shiny 5-iron....and a new driver...and so on. Almost every serious teacher you'll come across online will mention Arban and Clarke. So, if you don't have them, then start your collection with them. Best of luck with it.
  5. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    As I understand it the OP’s a come-back Cornet player now playing 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] Cornet in a local Brass Band. My guess is that he’s playing around grade five level but I might be way out.

    Arban’s is a classical text originally created for Cornet and later a modified version, in bass clef, for Trombone was created. I bought a copy for Cornet (my bass clef reading was and is again weak) but thought 2/3rds of it would always be beyond me and gave it away to a young star that could make use of it. Wright and Rounds Complete Method is another classic. It has a lot of overlap (with Arbans) and you’ll be doing rather well to finish it and all the solos in it.

    The Good Brass Guide (by Miller of Guildhall) was recommended to me by a teacher and it covers (in two books) the grade one to eight range so maybe that’s a catch all that’s going to have something of the right level for the OP. I tried the Trombone versions (by Gane), which I’m now going to put back on the stand. They are in bass clef, which I find hard to double with treble, and I didn’t manage all of book two the first time around. Perhaps the GBG is something else to put on the list of possibles.

    IMHO you can have too many books to the extent that you never work with them properly. However, I do have several books and have benefited from working through them and then putting others onto the stand for variety. Often I find that the exercises in different books are quite similar but starting from the beginning of the next book can highlight faults in your playing that went un-noticed the first time around.

    ‘Whatever’, if you can then get a ‘good’ teacher - IMHO a good teacher is someone who can teach you well and help you progress rather than is an expert player who also teaches - and take monthly / quarterly lessons. H’mm must take my own advice on that sometime.
  6. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Hi all, and thanks for filling in the gaps 2nd tenor. I am currently playing 3rd cornet in a non competing band. I played over 15 years ago, come back rusty but holding up well enough for now. Still want to improve and progress though for personal fulfilment.

    I have occasional lessons with my MD, mostly he uses the band repertoire plus ABRSM material as a teaching aid or syllabus. He is both a qualified school teacher and quality player of many years.

    In order to increase my playing ability taking into account the views on this site and elsewhere my plan is to increase my opportunity for playing by joining a second band, ensuring at least monthly lessons plus getting some text books to increase my own home practice sessions.

    The Arbans and Clarkes books as suggested by DS2004 are the first ones an internet search throw up and have excellent reviews. I do wonder if they are beyond me though. I will have a further look at all the links in this thread.

    I also, grade 5 standard on a very good day. Thanks all.
  7. pvillers

    pvillers New Member

    As well as the Arban I use Ridgeon's How Brass Players Do It and Vizutti's harmonic/technical studies. Seems to give a good practice balance and they seem to also progress difficulty wise at a nice level.
  8. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    Given the level you feel you play at Arbans and Clarke are perhaps better borrowed than bought, IMHO they are for the more experienced player. I believe the Ridgeon book is good but again what can you borrow and look at?

    As I remember the ABRSM exams are in three sections, list C is devoted to 'etudes' and the like so have a check out of them ( Look at the grade 4 and 6 syllabuses too to see which books are common between the three.

    It sounds like your MD/teacher is well positioned to have a view so pick his brains, and then I'd go and chat to the folk on the front bench to see what they used on their journey to it. Good luck and let us know how you get on.

    If you are lucky Trumpet Mike might post, IMHO he talkes a lot of sense and will have pupils at your level.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014
  9. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    The "Wright & Rounds Complete Method " is a good place to start. has scale exercises and builds up to more technical stuff. The Arban would be a more intense study than this.
  10. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    I might have to get this put on a t-shirt, someone saying that I talk sense!!

    I am a HUGE fan of Arban and Clarke BUT they work best when used in conjunction with a teacher who knows how to use them. When I first used Arban I was doing it alone and gained practically nothing, it was only when I went to university and had an amazing teacher (to whom I owe just about everything) that I was told which exercises would benefit me the greatest as well as how to use each exercise to gain the greatest benefit from each.
    There is much more to Arban (when used intelligently) than just rattling through the notes (same goes for pretty much every book and piece of music).
    Arban certainly has exercises that you would not struggle with, alongside that still fill even the most experienced players with a certain amount of dread (have heard players much better than most of us mere mortals still make slips with certain Arban exercises).

    I have a bunch of Clarke style exercises that I introduce to my students very early on - before they take Grade 1 (or are of that standard, I am not a huge believer in exams being the ultimate goal) they will have already got into the "technical" side of daily exercises and when we start using the Clarke (for most it is around Grade 5/6 standard) they find it very familiar and know how to use the exercises.
    I have a similar feeling about scales (and scale patterns) - from Day 1, Lesson 1 they will have a "scale" to learn, even if it is just two notes I will refer to it as a scale and they will "learn" their scale for the next lesson. As they improve, the length of the scale extends (up to an octave, then up to two, then up to three) as do the number of scales, types of scales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, chromatic whole tone) and the range involved. I do not do these in the order of the exam syllabus because frankly I think that the exam boards have got it very wrong.
    Scales ARE NOT just for exams (in fact I would suggest that exams are the worst possible reason for "learning" scales), they are one of the fundamental parts of our playing and can be used to help many aspects of our playing - tone, breath control, range, dexterity etc - when learned and used effectively.

    John Ridgeon's "How Brass Players Do It" has already been mentioned. Again, this is a book I use with the majority of my students (again from before Grade 1) but is another that I would suggest it is best to use with a teacher who knows what to do with it.

    There are hundreds of technical books available. Everyone will have their own favourites. I am very traditional with my choices mentioned here - they are the "classic" books that have been used by brass players for the past hundred years all over the world. If you go to Thailand and start playing a Clarke exercise in a practice room, there will be Thai students who will know the exercise (trust me - been there, done that), likewise in the US, Australia - all over the world people use these books and they do so for a very good reason.
    The Allen Vizzutti books are excellent and a slightly more contemporary view of the exercises, but have their roots firmly set in Arban and Clarke.

    Maynard Ferguson was once asked what he used ad he answered "Arban." When it was pointed out to him that Arban doesn't go above the C and he was playing two octaves higher he apparently answered along the lines of "use your brain, take it up an octave."
    With the right teacher and attitude towards learning you can use pretty much any book to achieve your goals. Even with my post-Grade 8 students I still find myself using "simple" exercises and etudes to highlight certain issues in their playing (and my own). A simple tune in the hands of a master will sound sublime, in the hands of mere mortals (like most of us) it will sound fine, but won't have that sparkle that sets them apart.
    Even something as simple as a C Major scales (one octave - steady tempo) will sound different between different players - it is how you use what you are playing, not necessarily what you are playing.

    You obviously have a desire to improve, good luck - and feel free to continue asking questions (although I don't promise to "talk sense" too often)
  11. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Very helpful responses from all with many thanks. So comprehensive I am now completely uncertain which direction to go. What I want is something I can do myself at home although I could try and loop in my teacher in during the lesson I have monthly for example.
  12. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I see your dilemma and to be honest there is no ‘silver bullet’. Trumpet mike’s response contained several gems of wisdom but I’m a bit strapped for time to pull each one out now. Interestingly he’s personally found some classic method books of little/limited value without a good teacher to guide their use ......... I’m now in the process of booking my next lesson.

    If its skill exercises you seek then the ASBRM list C (link given in and earlier post) at grade 5 and the Guild Hall syllabus group B are the place to look (download syllabus via: . One book that’s common to grades four, five and six is Ace of Trumpets, Bourgeious, Brass Wind Publications. Brass Wind do some good stuff (IMHO) and it’s hardly expensive, see: .

    This thread has prompted me to reconsider how I’ve been (under) using my own Trombone ‘method book’. Langley’s ‘classic’ method is about the right difficulty mix for me and I really should change to working through several sections in parallel and then restarting at the beginning of each again, etc. So that forum members might be able to better comment you might like to post both what texts you are using now and how you are using them.
  13. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Thanks 2nd Tenor. It was not my intention to sound ungrateful as the advice given has spurred me on to look down many avenues. It is really of benefit for me. I am just going to jump in and when ready purchase some to see how I get on. I am keen to improve and no doubt an annoyance to my MD as I ask lots of Q's and like feedback on performance where possible. Wife is looking for Christmas gift ideas for me so all is good.
  14. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Sorry - I am a huge fan of the books I mentioned and it is perfectly possibly to use them on your own, but I have found it much more beneficial to at least have some guidance at the beginning.
    Happy to offer advice on here, or through PMs.
    If all musicians (this is not specific to brass players) were as keen to improve as you obviously are then the standard of music in this country would be even higher than it already is.
  15. DS2014

    DS2014 Active Member

    The first section in Clarke are manageable by anyone but the earliest beginner. A simple ascending and descending slurred six-quaver chromatic starting at bottom F# to be played four times in one breath. This simple exercise can be used in about ten different ways to develop all aspects of one's playing:
    1. Play it as written, nice and slow, one exercise a day from section one, and you'll develop your range
    2. Build the speed gradually to develop your finger coordination
    3. Instead of slurring all the way up and down, slur them in groups of two to develop tongue coordination
    4. Tongue them, and build the speed to develop different articulations
    5. Instead of playing straight quavers, change them to dotted quaver semi-quaver pairs, and play in all different slurring combinations as above
    6. Play them as triplets
    7. Increase the number of repetitions in one breath in order to develop breath control
    8. Play at all dynamic levels to develop control
    9. Play crescendi and diminuendi going up and down, and then vice versa
    10. Play legato, staccato etc

    It's limitless, really. That's the beauty of Clarke and Arban's books. You don't just practice the exercises as they're written. You use what's written as a starting point, and then use your brain to change them. This is why you can never 'complete' the Arban or Clarke books. All of the above ten variations are just based on the first two pages of Clarke's book. Imagine the possibilities!!! Use your brain to develop your practice
  16. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    The notes should be manageable - some people do struggle with the breath control needed to keep an even tone throughout the exercise. Have lost count of how many times I have heard these played at great speed but the tone has left a lot to be desired.
  17. Phil3822

    Phil3822 Member

    Very kind of you Mike, I am keen to improve. I have ordered an Ardans Cornet Method New edition. My Music Teacher suggested this one from the ones we have discussed in this thread. He can work with me on the needed parts but he did warn me to not expect success on the complex parts and there would parts I likely never touch.

    Again, very appreciated of all the help offered.

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